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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or Staffbrewster Date: Dec 1, 2003 5:50am
Forum: etree Subject: Lossless Archive / Dancing in the Streets: tape trading 1965 to 2003

To start a discussion on how to continue supporting "tape trading" in a post-tape world I thought I would try to cite a few historical forces. Please feel free to correct this, if it is worth correcting. The reason to do all of this is to see if we can recognize changes over time, find commonalities, and make sure we know what we are trying to protect.

The Grateful Dead, the sonic symbol of the 60's in San Francisco, allowed the taping and strictly non-commercial trading of concert recordings. Love, peace, and a culture that did not trust traditional institutions were building a new world-- a world of hope. Music was central to this new world and spreading the music had an almost priestly aspect to it. Many bands furthered this tradition of tape trading and a culture of independent tapers and archivists have kept the archive alive over decades and over several medium changes.

I was exposed to the purveyors of the archive in 1980 at MIT when David Chapman gave me a couple of dead show cassettes with meticulous setlists. It seemed that certain status in the Dead community could be earned not only be going to lots of shows but by:
1. having a large tape collection
2. having tapes that were close do the source (fewer generations the better)
3. having accurate set lists
4. sharing with others, or better yet, turning on new keepers of the archive
This was a revelation for me to see independent people play an important cultural role. (Maybe it helped me become the archivist that I am today).

Importantly, all of this was done by hand with little official support (there was a "vault" of official recordings, but not even that was with a classic library or archive). All of this was being done by the community.

The Internet brought changes, and I am imagining also brought strains. Apparently after a lot of discussion, the Grateful Dead again took a leading roll by announcing their support of posting fan-made concert recordings on the net: http://www.dead.net/hotline_info/NEW_DOCUMENTS/mp3.html
Wow. Let the music play said the original leaders.

Some adaptions to the Internet and digitized recordings:

Feature #3: The etree community posted a central database of traded artist's concerts. This central system largely solved #3: having accurate set lists, but in a centralized way. In one way this solved a problem, but it also took out some of the community aspect by centralizing it. #3 seemed solved.

Feature #2: There were lossless digital formats developed to help solve the generation loss problem once and for all. WAV, the format for Compact Disks, was seen as sufficient for older tapes, and lossless compression of this was developed in shorten (SHN). FLAC is another standard that seems has some advantages in supporting metadata inside the file and more flexibility for even higher quality recordings than WAV supports. Where the Dead's statement talked of mp3's, these lossless versions seemed true to the original culture of respect for the original music. Again, this seemed to have solved the generation loss problem once and for all. #2 seemed solved.

At this stage in development, the transition from cassette sharing to CD sharing was complete and even was better because of the Internet. Leveraging the Internet to help in the movement of files using lossless compressed WAV files.

This left #1: having a large tape collection, and #4: sharing and turning on new keepers of the archive.

By 2002, FTP was used to trade concerts over the Internet, often on small servers that only accepted a few downloaders. These were announced on lists, forums, and bboards, and the diligent prevailed.

The Internet Archive asked a mailing list of etree folks if they thought a non-profit archive of concert recordings would be welcome, and they responded in a way that I have always recalled with a warm heart: "free storage and bandwidth? that would be the etree dream!" But posting on a centralized server was different from person-to-person trading, and most bands did not make posting on the web explicitly ok (as the dead had done), so working with some key etree folks we thought we would do a test of some bands to see if they wanted to play. And did they! In about a year, we have over 6000 concerts from over 300 bands soaking up over 200Mb/sec in bandwidth. As the Grateful Dead promoted decades before, it seemed that there was a way to live in peace and harmony. (I don't find it too surprising that the Internet Archive is a San Francisco based non-profit :)

Feature #1: Therefore the possibility of building a large tape collection became a possibility. Again, there is this issue that it is centralized which is a change. Even if there were several archives, this is different than having thousands of fan collections.

Feature #4: sharing with others, or better yet, turning on new keepers of the archive then became an issue.

About the taper and archivist community: I worry that we may be eroding the community by building central databases and archives. This community is critical, so we must find ways to support it even through some of the roles may be shifting. I believe if we do all of this right, we can win on all the parts and have a thriving archivist community. But this is our joint challenge.

Sharing the CD images with others has now gotten easier because of the Internet Archive, but music technology is changing-- people are keeping their recordings on hard drives and playing them there.

Furthermore, the Internet Archive can be used to help discover and explore music from lots of bands making random access more important.

This has posed a problem that we are facing now: the standard for listening to music online is mp3 rather than WAV (and its losslessly compressed versions).

This conflict goes in direct contradiction to Feature #2: protecting the "trading pool" by stomping out inferior recordings.
Central archives that offer archival reference copies can help this greatly, easing some worries, but at least this central archive has only been around for a year.

The downside of not supporting mp3 versions of concerts is that it makes it more difficult for many to enjoy the music. This contradicts the sharing feature of the taper community and the Internet Archive's mission of "Universal Access to All Knowledge."

Therefore we have a puzzle. We can share with many more people, but one of the basic features is possibly compromised.

I think a part of the issue is the joint mission in Feature 4: sharing with others and making new keepers of the archive. In the reel-to-reel, cassette, and CD days, these can be done at the same time. In the online world as the physical archive world, it often helps to have separate "access copies" from "preservation copies".

Good news-- we made it from reel-to-reel -> cassette -> CD. This strong a tradition of love and peace will help us eventually support online accessibility in some way or another. It will take some experimentation and good ideas.



I will stop here, and see if this helps discussion at all.


moderator update: updated to bring this post back up to the top

This post was modified by Jonathan Aizen on 2003-12-01 13:50:21

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffDiana Hamilton Date: Dec 1, 2003 12:02am
Forum: etree Subject: Re: Lossless Archive / Dancing in the Streets: tape trading 1965 to 2003

It's true, today we really do have a divergence of "4a" (the idea of sharing) and "4b" (the idea of archiving) in an important way, because now we can reach to people who will never even know about the trading/archiving many of us participate in so deeply. But these people have the capacity for full enjoyment of music nonetheless. "One man gathers what another man spills."

For instance, I have a personal deeply felt example, my 80 year old father who is suffering from partial dementia. He is also essentially housebound and has limited entertainment options, but he does have a dialup computer, a love of music and a love of exploration (he was both a "stereobug" and an inventor in his day).

Even if he had broadband, because of his declining cognitive skills he is now incapable of jumping the various software hurdles we traders have become accustomed to. He does know how to visit a website and he does know how to play an mp3 on the computer. It's just a click these days. And he knows about the archive, he's been here to look at some texts.

In the olden days of even a couple years ago, it was inconceivable to think that such a reduced-capability person could easily dig the same live recordings we all do. This archive has put so much within easy reach. But there he is sitting at the door with his ear pressed to it, jams going on inside. Right now that's awesome and sad at the same time.

This post was modified by hamilton on 2003-12-01 08:02:59

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffDiana Hamilton Date: Dec 1, 2003 3:17am
Forum: etree Subject: Re: Lossless Archive / Dancing in the Streets: tape trading 1965 to 2003

A subthread elsewhere on the board ended up like being a child to this one, so here's a pointer to that:
http://www.archive.org/iathreads/post-view.php?id=10443

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or Staffsuspect Date: Dec 5, 2003 4:12am
Forum: etree Subject: Re: Lossless Archive / Dancing in the Streets: tape trading 1965 to 2003

This statement from a site mentioned in an above post is exactly how I feel about the mp3 deal.

". Will *WEBSITE REMOVED* sell MP3s?

We prefer to not deal with the MP3 format. While many people like the convenience of small file sizes, too many of these floating around could hurt sound quality in trading on down the road. If you are still using dial-up, we suggest getting a friend with a better connection to burn you a copy. And while your free to compress the audio on your own, please do not reintroduce these lossy files (or any decompressed versions of them) into trading circulation."

Diana...I hope this doesn't come off as crude (cuz I really think you're super cool) but couldn't you just burn your dad cd's or better yet, download the shows for him and convert them to mp3 for his listening pleasure? I know he's not gonna go trade them or anything but if we all try to help burn our friends music, we can eventually teach them how to download shns and convert them (most of them anyway).

I think it has to be an educational thing (for most people, there are always obvious exceptions). You NEED to teach people reather than accomodate them. If people want mp3's so bad, they can go to Kazaa or whatever and download all of the studio stuff and official live releases they want, chances are they already do. If they decide they want live stuff recorded by fans, why not listen to the mp3 sample of an artist or show you like, then download the whole thing or if you're on dial-up, have a friend with high speed download the shns for you. Broadband internet is very very prominent in today's "Internet Experienc."

I love the archive and what it stands for but I really think that full shows as mp3 is not a good idea. Hell, I'll even offer teach people who want to learn how to deal with mp3's on a one-to-one or one-to-group basis. Whatever it takes to keep the trading pool great for as hard as we've worked to get it here.

My $.02

later,
...tom

This post was modified by suspect on 2003-12-05 12:12:58

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffDiana Hamilton Date: Dec 5, 2003 4:52am
Forum: etree Subject: Re: Lossless Archive / Dancing in the Streets: tape trading 1965 to 2003

couldn't you just burn your dad cd's or better yet, download the shows for him and convert them to mp3 for his listening pleasure?

Well, it's not just the cognitive deficit, an important part of the "case study" is about empowerment. He's angry most days that other people feed him, bathe him, medicate him and that he can do little for himself. The few control points he has in life are TV remote and mouse.

If he can choose and listen himself, it's so much more important than if I picked something and did all that- or he picked something, told me and I did all that, and then dropped it in the mail. Having to get someone to do yet another thing for him is just another defeat.

The great part of the whole Internet Archive site is it's a very empowering resource on so many levels, for all kinds of people! All made free to us out of the kindness of Brewster and company! For instance Dad *can* go to Project Gutenberg here, browse and read at will (it's not as pretty as the djvu format or whatever but the words are there). But I'm afraid the LMA is out of reach.

No prob in asking, I've thought of doing the burning and such and realized it would just make him bitter. (On the plus side he may get some surprise LMA CDs for Christmas, that would be a positive thing. :) )

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or Staffsimon c Date: Dec 5, 2003 5:00am
Forum: etree Subject: Re: Lossless Archive / Dancing in the Streets: tape trading 1965 to 2003

My perspective on this, as a non-Etree person, is still the following:

I'm a mild fan of a number of the bands on the Etree Archive - or at least, I've heard of some of them and wouldn't mind checking out some of their live concerts.

However, because the files are so relatively massive (often up to 1gb per concert, right?), I don't have any large impetus to download them. I know I'd have no easy way to back them up after I listened to them, save buying new hard drives or burning a couple of CDs per show, which, being a mild fan, I have no interest in doing. And I don't like downloading massive files just to listen once - it seems counterintuitive.

It may be that I'm lazy, heh, or don't deserve to listen to the concerts if I'm not interested in leeching them at their current sizes - I do have a broadband connection, so I have the bandwidth, although clearly, for those on dial-up, SHNs are more of a problem.

So, I think I may be part of the larger populace that staying SHN-only is warding away. If you could stream releases or download them with a more reasonable size (say 50mb-100mb per album), I'd be a lot more interested in checking things out and maybe making some new discoveries.

In other words, keeping the recordings in SHN only means a fairly high entry threshold for the recordings - you have to be really pretty interested to make an effort and grab them.

I think that's a shame, but I now understand some people's concerns that MP3s could be burnt to CD and then traded by mail/hand and re-ripped to SHN, thus 'corrupting' the trading pool - is that the specific corruption of which some speak? Is there any way to get round this problem?

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffDiana Hamilton Date: Dec 5, 2003 5:55am
Forum: etree Subject: Re: tape trading 1965 to 2003- call for end of audio trades?

understand some people's concerns that MP3s could be burnt to CD and then traded by mail/hand and re-ripped to SHN, thus 'corrupting' the trading pool - is that the specific corruption of which some speak? Is there any way to get round this problem?

Wow Simon, the way you phrase that, I suddenly realize the weak point in the trading chain is actually that any traders still trade audio-format discs. That's the part where you can suddenly become uncertain of the purity. You get this silver disc but there's no quick way to tell if it's the primo copy.

If everyone traded in lossless filesets (which can be burned to data discs, people would always know they had the primo copy or not, because there would always be fingerprints to crossref (archive wold have them, any other trustworthy non-audio trader would have them too). Every lossless fileset traded of course comes with a set of fingerprints (audio doesn't, that's a giant problem with it).

Tom or any trader, how about this for an education mission? Stamp out audio-format trading since that's the only "vector" for pollution (such as the mp3 sourced-trackes that the audio trades might carry). Also, it's not just mp3 carried through the vector, it's the risky DAE gen thing, that's a whole other "pollution" source with audio trading that etree.org at least has worked to stamp on as much as possible.

Look over at db.etree.org, that's what lots of us do anyway! (When have I last got an *audio* trade in the mail? Years ago?)

So, it's coming across as "A Modest Proposal" but I swear I'm serious! Would this be doable as an education mission? Wouldn't this be a sure-fire way for any taper to preserve purity- ask that no audio copies be made, only give out lossless in trades?

Insist on no audio-format trades and the mp3 issue goes away, doesn't it? Whether they exist or not can have no effect on trading; they can't enter the trading chain. Everybody wins this way.

A side benefit (from lossless proponents' vantage- which we traders all are here, right?) is that every trader must get schooled in lossless as an entry to trading- that can only help the overall trading pool.

I really do mean this for consideration- can this work, and if not, why not?

This post was modified by hamilton on 2003-12-05 13:54:03

This post was modified by hamilton on 2003-12-05 13:55:10

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Poster: Administrator, Curator, or StaffDiana Hamilton Date: Dec 6, 2003 5:25am
Forum: etree Subject: Re: tape trading 1965 to 2003- call for end of audio trades?

I've spun off a fresh thread with a more concise version of the idea:
http://www.archive.org/iathreads/post-view.php?id=10595

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